By Dan Moren
November 6, 2014 1:22 PM PT
Siri, Cortana, OK Google, meet Amazon Echo
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
Seems like everybody’s got a voice-based assistant now, so naturally Amazon decided it was time to join the party. Instead of building it into a smartphone, however, Amazon’s Echo is part of a Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-enabled speaker that you sit somewhere in your home. (It plugs in, and there’s no battery—so either the family in Amazon’s video bought half a dozen of them or they carry them from room to room.)
Like Siri, Cortana, or Google it provides news and weather, plays music, controls alarms, and provides information from web searches. Presumably, it will soon be able to buy things from Amazon as soon as you ask. Otherwise I’m not quite sure how it works in Amazon’s ecosystem—in some ways it seems more like a product Google would sell, maybe even Apple. (On a related note, I really like the “Hey Siri” aka “Ahoy, telephone!” feature of iOS 8, and would love it if it were possible without plugging in the device—I imagine it will be at some point.)
I’ve seen other people wonder if you can change its wake word from “Alexa.” If not, families with an Alexa in them are going to be pretty annoyed. Plus, if I can’t address it as “Computer” or “Jarvis,” I’ll be sorely disappointed.
Also, I was creeped out by the explanation that it’s always listening; I pictured Echo breaking inÂ spontaneously when the father fails to spell cantaloupe. Just be careful if it starts singing “I’ve got no strings…”
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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